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Opening up the organised crime front

July 11, 2016

Over the past two months the Inbox of the blog has increasingly received emails regarding organised crime.  From Luke Harding of the Guardian, to EU bureaucrats, a Canadian former spook, and now a journalist from Belgium, this cluster of emails on the same subject in such a short period of time is unusual.

Assuredly with regard to Odessa, Messrs Angert, Zhokov, Galadilnik, Mayor Trukhanov et al continue to very well under the current Ukrainian leadership’s deliberately blind eye.

Indeed the appointment of Yuri Lutsenko as Prosecutor General is unlikely to see any will, let alone progress, in tackling organised crime – this despite Mr Angert being regularly named by Mr Lutsenko (to the point of appearing to be his nemesis) during an entirely uneventful and below par stint as Minister of Interior in the Tymoshenko government.

However, some of the emails seek views on organised crime far wider than the well known participants from Odessa – and quite rightly, for organised crime respects no borders.  Indeed cross border crime has its advantages when bureaucracies, laws and jurisdictions create legal holes and large cracks in the pavement of law enforcement.

Whether or not some (if not all) of these random and unconnected emailed inquiries relate to the clear increase in “Russian” organised crime within Ukraine and further west into EU nations – time and the related published articles will ultimately tell.

“Russian” organised crime, it appears has something of an elastic definition.  For some “Russian” means Russian, such as groups like Solncevskaya Grouperovka, or “Russian” meaning “Russian speaking” – which includes Belorussians,  Ukrainians, Moldavians, Georgians, some Bulgarians etc – be they actually connected to Russian organised criminals/entities – or not.

Of course organised crime does not really differentiate between nationalities when creating networks throughout the “Russian speaking” regions.  A “Ruski Mafiosi Mir” certainly exists in some form or another, albeit whilst some personalities remain constant, others drift in and out.  It can be somewhat fluid regarding involvement at certain levels and/or tasks to be accomplished.

“Russian” organsied crime is intertwined, almost symbiotic, with the political class of the former Soviet states – and beyond within the former Communist States.

Many older, well placed politicians that came from, and survived, the “wild, wild east” of the 1990’s are unable to convincingly put clear daylight between themselves and organised crime.  In many cases those that once were active in the underworld, now sit prominently amid and atop the political world.  Others relied upon assistance up the greasy business and/or political pole from organised crime.

Past deeds and past relationships do not disappear.

The 1990’s also saw something of a cross-pollination between law enforcement and organised crime too – notwithstanding an unambiguous “understanding” being reached between the State security services and criminal groups.

Of course time stands still for no man, nor organisations be they (nominally) on the side of angels – or otherwise.  Relationships have developed or died – along with numerous criminals and politicians along the way.

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The upshot of the past 25 years is that everybody surviving has “kompromat” on everybody else.  Organised crime on the politicians and some within the Security Services, the Security Services upon organised crime and the politicians, the politicians over organised crime and the security services – an entirely cancerous, but profitable (if still dangerous) web.

Every now and again, all three entities within this unholy trinity can be personalised in a single individual.

This political, criminal, and (compromised or otherwise) security service web spreads far and wide.  “Russian” and Russian organised crime has long established itself far beyond the borders of the Russian Federation.

Organised crime is hardly a patriotic endeavor.  It has a high tolerance for large sums being spent as a “cost of doing business” if those costs facilitate the least resistance.  Wars amongst themselves, with political enablers, or Security Services are few and far between.  After all, as with all wars, the costs of waging them in blood and treasure often outweigh the rewards.  Loyalty is to the $ and not a nation.

However, criminal loyalty to the nation can be bought – or at least hired – to further the national cause.

Simply being told that for relatively uninterrupted business to continue, it is expected by the State that organised crime deliver a robust message, or bribe, or coerce a certain party, or engage in a concerted action of “x” criminality in city, region or even country “y”.  A rather grubby variation upon Track 2 diplomacy perhaps.

By way of example, both Ukraine and Germany have both recently publicly raised concerns about Russian organised crime, tasked by Russian Security Services, deliberately creating crime sprees that fall outside the usual organised crime remit within their nations – Crimes which clearly have societal and therefore political implications before their respective constituencies for the political classes.

That the Ukrainian parliament twice recently refused to pass a draft law regarding “Thieves in law” may cause certain readers to wonder why – though it is perhaps a rhetorical question when considering the prose above and symbiotic relationships.

Nevertheless, the long anticipated “hiring” and mobilisation of organsied crime (next it will be religion that is selected from the tool box) by the Kremlin has seemingly visibly and tangibly begun to be felt – but perhaps unexpectedly within areas of criminality not normally associated with serious organised crime.

T’will be interesting to see how effectively the domestic national agencies deal with this – and the level of interaction between them.  It appears Russian organised crime, upon Kremlin instruction, is now prepared to engage in crime with a degree of organisation – at least for now.

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